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Of course I lost my mind on Sunday night. Of course! That was simply the energy of Wembley on 31/7 seeping through the time vortex on the eve of its glorious anniversary.

Wowee. England have been European Champions for a whole year 😲 Feels good, doesn't it? Meanwhile, Germany are still LOSERRRRRRRS.

So hello again, happy Monday, today we're going to talk about Colombia's astonishing 2-1 Group H win over highly-favoured Germany. It was a peach of a game and a helluvan experience seeing it all unfold inside a very noisy stadium.

I don't really like noisy things but I found this one quite good.

As ever, let me know your thoughts on noise, Linda Caicedo, or anything else that takes your fancy by hitting reply or mailing me at [email protected]. Cheers! 🍻

What a game

On Friday, I watched England play Denmark with Kit, a new friend (!!) and a theatre kid experiencing his first sports event in more than a decade, he claimed (whaaaat?). As we walked through the barriers at the Sydney Football Stadium, he asked why there were so many people there to see the game, while theatres are often only half full. What’s the difference? What makes one form of entertainment more appealing than another?

He speculated about the participation factor. At sports fixtures, you get to take part. Wicked! You can scream and shout and bang your fists against the hoardings and no one can stop you. You don’t even need to understand what’s happening on the pitch to play some role in the spectacle, making events such as World Cups attractive to the uninitiated.
Colombian ladies looking FIERCE
Watching Colombia’s exhilarating victory over Germany, in the same stadium, with the same attendance, taught me that we in the UK do not take advantage of our right to be involved as much as we ought to.

The noise that followed Lauren James’ sixth-minute winner — which seemed, if briefly, to put to bed any doubts about whether England would be at the races this tournament — paled by comparison to the swelling, shrieking sound that accompanied a picture of Linda Caicedo, waiting in the tunnels, projected on the stadium screens ahead of kick-off.

The image of her face. The suggestion of Linda. She hadn’t even stepped on the pitch yet.

Every moment of the game was narrated by the Colombian fans in the crowd. Huge cheers went up as Colombia ‘keeper Catalina Pérez collected the ball at a corner, then vicious whistles as her opposite Merle Frohms set up to take goal kicks.

If you go to Old Trafford, or Elland Road, or Anfield, you’ll get a dozen independent pockets of boos flaring up across the stands when there’s a dodgy decision. If the ref has a right stinker or, for other reasons, the sense of injustice is especially ripe that day, the pockets will merge and you’ll get a unified wave of sound, gathering volume.

But at the Sydney Football Stadium, the merest hint of a German attack was enough to trigger the great Colombian choir, booing with everything they’ve got, all singing off the same song sheet with no hesitation. If this, then that. You shout when your player goes down, complain when one of theirs does the same. The only time when the routine lapses is when a goal is scored. Then your mandate is simple - loud, in whatever way you please.
A little child enjoying Colombia with a loud horn
Fortunately, they got their moment.

On her World Cup debut against South Korea, Linda Caicedo hit a decent strike from outside the box, the kind that sends you to sleep at night with a proud smile. But what she did against Germany made that first goal look dullsville, tedious, run-of-the-mill. Luring in a pair defenders, with just one snap of her nimble feet, she darted between the two, then BAM top corner, the ball curling as it went.

It’s not really the done thing to celebrate in the press box. But what was I supposed to do? Remain calm in the face of one of the finest strikes I’d seen, hit by one of the world’s most exciting young prospects, against Alexandra Popp's GERMANY?? I was on my feet. I was applauding. I was feeling alive, joy and surprise, like that goal was the best thing that had ever happened, like nothing else mattered, like I was being born again, like a virgin.
Linda Caicedo celebrates her second WWC goal
Seriously! Regardless of how many games of football you see, goals like Caicedo’s feel like you’re being touched by the magic of sport for the very first time.

And heck, I’m not even Colombian. I’m starting to find international football business
extremely moreish. I love national pride and the various ways it can be expressed inside a stadium. You could watch the Premier League week in week out all season and not see a player running their hearts out like the ones bearing the colours of their country. You can’t win the World Cup by buying the best players. Little Linda Caicedo was born with a knack for footie, and Colombia have taken her under their wing and supported her to be great. She is great.

When she was down on the floor injured in the second half, the crowd chanted ‘Linda, Linda, Linda’ and that was pretty much the final straw for my emotions because she’s only 18, for God’s sake, this teenage girl giving it her all, and tens of thousands of her compatriots are giving it back.
Mayra Ramirez cooking
She wasn’t the only one. They were feisty bastards. Afraid of absolutely nothing. With their 1-0 lead, Colombia took the ball to the corner. Sensible! Nope, they took it to the corner in their own half. Did they sit back and park the bus? No! Mayra Ramírez was pumping those arms, throwing herself toward the goal, grabbing any opportunity. Uh, gals, you only need one goal to win!

Well. If it weren’t for the sexiest of touches by Lea Schüller I would have thoroughly resented Germany for having the temerity to try and score a goal. The greater tragedy, though, is that Popp was born in the first place. Her spot-kick was inevitable, and made Caicedo's open goal miss moments earlier feel even sadder.

For the whole match I had a trio of Germans loitering behind me, and I hated the way they failed to read the room and were supporting the wrong team, but to be honest I couldn’t hear many of their contributions, despite them being practically IN my ear since, did I mention, the Colombians were extremely loud?? When Popp scored their celebrations were particularly irksome but you know what, whatever guys, it’s not the first time I’ve seen this Germany team lose a game of football ;) and I don’t know why you’re whooping when your team have not even played that well, or anything.

Germany were doing an especially good job of not playing well when Colombia got an injury-time corner. What was happening here? Too arrogant to defend? Too busy thinking about going up the other end to score, or what cutesy pose to put Waru in after the final whistle? Did they even try?
Manuela Vanegas THUMPS IT HOME
Reasons for the Germans’ incompetence mattered not to Manuela Vanegas. It’s a tired verb, but fuck me did she THUMP that ball into the back of the net, folding her whole body in half as she did so.

Rising to my feet was not enough. I was slamming the desk. I was on my feet, slamming the desk, talking to nobody.

“No way.”

How can football be like this? How can football make us feel like this? How am I expected to go back to real life?

It wasn’t only me at the Sydney Football Stadium asking these questions.

When I watch the replay on the monitor on my desk, I get a fresh angle of the celebration. It captures the cameraman closest to it all, directing his lens into the pile-on, at players charged with euphoria. I can see him smiling behind his viewfinder.

When I head down to the mixed zone at full time, there’s a volunteer with a lollipop, shepherding me through the chasmic underbelly of the stadium, showing me the way.

‘What a game,’ he said, spontaneously. He couldn't help himself. Neither could I.

“What a game,” I shrugged, inexplicably breaking into a jog, fused with some energy I wouldn't shake til long after I wanted to go to sleep.

Among the ocean of yellow that was surrounding the stadium long before kick off, I don’t know how many imagined that Colombia would claim all the points against twice world champions Germany. Maybe the fact that it didn’t matter, that they'd revel regardless, is the privilege of the lower-seeded teams, who show up to support a side for however far they get, with no expectations to fall short of.
Colombian players giving it EVERYTHING
I thought about Friday, how the mood dropped like an anchor when Keira Walsh looked to be in trouble. Seconds before the referee blew on Colombia’s historic win, there was a similar scenario. A bang of heads, Jorelyn Carabalí went down. She stayed there, lying still, people around her beckoning urgently. A medic rose to their feet. A medic was sprinting. Concerned players crowded around. But everywhere the Colombian fans were partying. On the screens, men were shaking flags, pulling faces their wives wouldn’t recognise. There was dancing, and noise. A stretcher arrived. Behind me, the sound of a percussion instrument I can’t name.
Keira Walsh chowing down on a caterpillar
Don't forget that you can keep up with all of my Australian adventures on the 31/7 Instagram page.

📸 Follow me here: @317_317_317_

I can't promise more Keira and Colin, but I can promise a hearty selection of celebratory emojis when the poorly babe returns to the field 🤕
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